Enough Spanish to be Dangerous

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    • #2025
      Holly DeVivo

      I’m not sure if this is the right forum for this question but I wanted to get some advice from fellow terps. The other day I was at an assignment where the provider was attempting to give the patient instructions in Spanish but was doing so incorrectly (she was using false cognates). The patient was confused and the provider was getting frustrated that the patient wasn’t understanding what she was saying. This doctor is very abrasive and, to be honest, a bit intimidating! She eventually began to speak solely in English and I was able to do my job and the rest of the assignment went smoothly. Does anyone have any suggestions as to what I could do next time to limit the frustration? Should I have interrupted the provider with the correct interpretation? I don’t want to offend or upset the provider but I also want to make sure the patient is understanding everything that is said.

    • #2027

      Yes, Holly, this is a tricky situation. What frustrates me is that, as a nurse, I would never attempt to perform a clinical skill unless I was 100% competent which means having the skill verified by a clinical supervisor. It seems to me that clinicians are simply over-confident with their language skills. They need to understand that it is great that they can greet a patient and introduce themselves, but that when it comes to communicating clinical information (history, physical assessment, patient education, etc.), they need to defer to the expert (i.e., interpreter). It is good that you stayed on-site, this is the best for patient safety. I don’t know that there is an easy way to address this type of issue with the provider in the moment. And if the person is, as you say, abrasive then perhaps you should not address it with the provider at all. However, it is a good idea to find out WHO the proper person would be that you could mention it to tactfully (e.g., charge nurse, risk management, etc.).

    • #2346
      Iantha Fyolek

      Michelle, do you have any suggestions for ways that we can respectfully broach the subject with overly-enthusiastic providers, be it doctors or nurses?

    • #2348

      Iantha, there of course will be some people who simply won’t listen no matter how tactful you try to broach the subject. But for those who will listen, try starting with a compliment and ask if they would like feedback: “I think it’s great nurses/doctors/etc. make an effort to learn/speak Spanish! You are doing really well. Do you mind if I give you some feedback?”

      Note that I am not suggesting that you end up giving a terminology or grammar class! But you can give an examples, such as, “I notice that you are very good with introductions and asking questions about medical history in Spanish. However, when you try to give education/instructions, your grammar needs some work. I’m mentioning this because I want to be sure you don’t get in a bind in the future if a patient can’t understand you. You know, patient’s won’t always admit it!” (followed by a good natured wink or laugh).

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